Melbourne, Australia 2017.6.18 – 2017.6.20

Saint Kilda by the beach, south Melbourne, the long wooden roller coaster and ferris wheel of Luna amusement park, who have their Spiegeltent. The artists’ events were all cancelled over new health and safety regulations about wind resistance. They were asking for Tiger Lillies to fill in the gap before all being cancelled. Lucky for us, in Memo Theatre, built in the 1920s, we had an excellent sound check. The ceiling is acoustically padded. Our sound man is saying how he can’t get into scallop pies. He is on the ball and it just sounds amazing onstage.

North Melbourne and St Kilda rugby teams compete on TV as I choose from lots of lovely mixed salads for my falafel, which sure beats a London standard. The surly commentator points at the screen: “Now you better get a stiff drink… or close your eyes”… South and North Melbourne are some kind of rivals since the 1970s. Before that it was a holiday town but not the cultural destination it is now. And luckily, now, it’s really expensive. Seeking a burrito, but for $25 almost killed my appetite. Burrito is a portable version of the Mexican meal, and now it’s gourmet.

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the show

A lady was telling another to stop talking ‘you’ve been talking all the way through, okay, now stop’. Martyn says he once told off a lady in a tent show in Melbourne for talking too much. Then at the CD signing she confronted him with an intimidating boyfriend behind her shoulder. So Martyn avoids telling off the audiences in Australia.

At the second song I felt awkward when the piano vocal cable wouldn’t work and the sound man had to come and replace it. But I’m not going to start telling jokes? Maybe I should: Why did the alcoholic cross the road? To get to the other cider… But I’d rather leave it to Martyn, be ready and play supportively.
It was a fun and well received show, where again, Australians laugh at the dark and slow depressing verses, which I understand. It’s better than taking them completely seriously, even though they are about suffering and torture, debasement and murder, etc… the song Go is always a good ending to the first set, Martyn gets to improvise stops and starts and let the audience fill in gaps.

There is a broad range of ages in the audience, a statistic which might indicate whether we have a future in a given area. An old lady buying a CD has a beret of black and white cow pattern, that she calls cow pat hat. Since she used to work on a cow farm, her friend made it for her. She was so tickled when I said, ‘Please pay that lady over there’, because apparently ‘there are no ladies left in the world anyway’. Does lady connote high tea, obedience, a day at the races? What was she on about? Australia can seem like a snapshot of some imperial England. It haunts me that there is an extension of England so vast, where all our Englishness runs wild. I know I keep saying that, but it doesn’t go away.

Day off in Melbourne

Saint Kilda beach

Small bright green, blue and red birds converse with me from a palm tree by Luna Park, loudly chittering.

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Down on the beach near Saint Kilda pier, gulls fight even when there was a constant supply of apple from my hand or mouth. They will squeal with sounds of begging like a dog. They did peck one another but not the lone pigeons or magpie. Sitting down on the grassy mound on the beach by St. Kilda Pier, I was soon surrounded by about 20 gulls. They had bright red-orange beaks and the whites of their eyes as white as their attractive snowy feather coats. Some have dark misty eyes and dark grey beaks. They are perpetually ready to defend and fight over food, some more calm and collected than others. Only pigeons will peck small bits of apple from my hand, but eventually turn it down. Gulls keep eating it but never dare come a few inches away.

When the unfinished apple is down, they don’t know what to do, even though they have hingeless beaks and big mouths. A strong-willed gull pecks off bits of that red apple with conviction, fighting off others with an extended-neck, squealing in tantrum – the head lunges downward and faces up with the mouth defensively wide open, standing their ground. Other gulls don’t seem so confident, they have tried to break food together before. Now I’m not doing it for them. They are frustrated by their limits like me, in pain, maybe always hungry. I wonder if it’s ever enough, and why should it be? There is never enough food for everyone even if there is. Being in a body is in conflict with peace? We have to make sense of it. We will always fight over food. But when the gulls all fly away at a dog’s presence, they are remote, in groups of two. They stick together. I like their company, they don’t talk or care what clothes I’m wearing.

In the background was a wedding celebration, photographs of the bride and groom all dressed up on the beach, accompanied by the sociable pair of black swans. In Adelaide there was also a pair of black swans at midnight, in the Torrens River at the festival centre. Here in the surf, they also come closer for photos or food, slowly, elegantly.

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Jacksons fig trees are large and muscular like body builder’s legs and arms, extending out to reach another and perhaps root in the ground again like cherry laurel. Ground flood lights proudly show off trees in the city, as if trees need fame and recognition that the arrogant city offers them. No, they are just there to make the city look great.

on a bike

Melbourne city bikes will only be worth it if one is heading for the centre because that’s where you can dock them. I started at the sea end of Fitzroy Street, paying $3 for the day, about £1.80. Dock at a bay between half an hour and an hour, or be charged another $2 for the next hour. Woolworths supermarket, skipping the Lucas Paw Paw hand cream because it’s mixed with petroleum I didn’t realise, so I went with Naturalus which doesn’t. Strangers are ready to talk as usual, a guy seems very interested in IPAN, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network who demonstrate against nuclear tomfoolery.

Reaching the end of Fitzroy Street by the high block of multicoloured stacked container style housing, opportunistic traffic… looks like cargo.

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Continuing left to St Kilda Street north towards Botanical Gardens, endless strips of wide commercial and investment companies… buildings like flow charts and hard drives. Wifi at McDonalds by the next bike dock, eating a cheese sandwich as usual. Agree to McDonalds terms and all the data they want from me, forever.

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Past the the Metropolitan Police memorial, Alexandra Park with a few beautiful tall trees. Do not feed the possums – they are a protected species, don’t feed any animals. On the Yarra River and Riverland area it’s all new and expensive looking. Over that bridge you can see a lot of pretty lights. The more corporate offices, the more pretty lights. You can see a valley of them.

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….

Southern Cross Station at 1800 is teeming, a wide swarm of Asians and Australians come half smiling across the road. Chungdu Festival is on, to celebrate years of Australian-Chinese culture and trade, with the themed painting of uniform porcelain pandas. More growth, more billionaires keeping their new mergers quiet, Ernst & Young selling off the country. More types of junk food, recreating London in a tropical country scares me again. Cathedral banner: ‘Let’s fully welcome refugees’, because the second (?) estate always takes the moral high ground. That is easily said. …

 

Bourke Street has a Job Warehouse near the top, that has got large prints of photographs on the walls of that same street in the 1800s, dirt roads, horse and carts. It’s also been out of service for years as the signs say, and still up for lease, filthy and rusty. See? A new city in itself is like a museum.

I’m not in the mood for museums, I like to talk to someone who’s not crazy about careers and impressing people. Talking to a lady who is begging up the road near the Japanese singer. She is talking to herself about 666 on someone’s forehead. Everything we talk about seems to concern her on the basis of whether people rape and murder or not. Whatever I talk about, she answers, ‘As long they don’t rape and murder’. I gave her the last $2 coin which I’m not going to use. ‘What are you going to use it for?” “Heroin”.

 

Qantas QF009 Melbourne to London via Dubai 2017.6.19 – monday to tuesday

Airport food courts are good places to find free leftover chips. A lot of people leave them. Nandos have good ones, crispy and spiced. Probably a bit more pleasant than sitting in Hungry Jack (the Australian Burger King trade name) and digging through a paper bag. But I like to observe people’s reactions. At Nandos a young oriental man had his chicken and he too left a pile of chips and smiled that I took some with me. Passenger comfort is crucial. A few minutes of sleeping on my back before this 13 hour first leg to Dubai really helped. I’m still travelling the next day.

Babies cry because they are not inhibited half as much as others. There is not one but TWO crying babies in this plane cabin. When you make genuine contact, keep it interesting, nothing complicated, be honest, make decent eye contact, it really helps the baby to listen, calm, engage. These parents in the front were great – singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, staying calm. Others just keep saying sshhh, shh, shhhh, sorry but that is not enough.

Waiting in departures at Dubai, and bend over to the sink, I feel like my head is floating and suspended, heavily moving through a large space. Maybe it’s from the sleeping while sitting up. Two different Australians said they don’t get jet lagged when they go to London, but do when they return to Australia. It must the clock zone. Martyn and Adrian had an awful time recovering, two or three weeks of bad sleep when they got home, but I was okay after one or two long night’s sleep.

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